Newsletter: March 2010

Table of Contents

SWG News

March Is Back to Middle-earth Month!

Greetings unto the people of Arda!

The month of March is once more upon us and, with it, Back to Middle-earth Month. But this season, I--your humble herald Ornisso the Unappreciated--have dark tidings to bring, for it seems that the world's end is upon us.

It began in the fashion of a rumor, as such things tend to do. I keep a humble tavern here on the coast, in a town where the name has been long-forgotten, and I first heard the mariners speaking softly to one another of new lands rising where before there had been naught but sea. I assumed them deep in their cups and prone to fancies thereof, but one night, as I walked at the verge of the sea, I chanced to look skyward and saw that even the familiar stars had taken new shapes: shapes of dire warning. Shapes that portended, to my ancient heart, that the end was near.

For you may once have known me. I am of the ancient line that came from Valinor when the Trees went dark, and I was in the service of King Fingolfin, one of his loremasters, though not the best-known, not he who would author the texts that forged the legends found in the books upon your shelves. But I remember the ancient tales of the world's ending; I wrote of them once and argued hotly with Pengolodh of Gondolin, who thought not much of what I had written. He prevailed, and the stories spoken by your wise Elrond and gentle, brave Bilbo, told even by the great authors of your own time, echoed his words and mine were lost to dust, fated to fade even as did my people upon Eriador.

The end is upon us--yet all hope is not lost. Twenty of our heroes--some more ancient than the stars and others new-born upon this world--have gathered to lead the forces of good against the Dark Foe Morgoth when he breaks forth from beyond the night as the lost legends forebode. They have gathered in my Tavern to begin their work that will determine the fate of the world. Shall Light triumph as it was meant to do from the beginning? Or shall all descend into darkness?

Come meet our heroes in the Tavern, where they are becoming acquainted and sharing their own tales of how they became engaged in this quest for the fate of the world. In the weeks to come, we shall all share story and song, that which has ever inspired hearts and minds and changed the world. Shall we change it yet again? That remains to be seen, but we hope you will join us on our journey.

May the stars guide you on your way,

Ornisso the Unappreciated
Loremaster of Fingolfin
(who is most absolutely decidedly not Pengolodh

P.S.--If you could not join us for our quest but wish to share your own tales this month, you may find our challenges here.

Help Haiti Auction

We're still keeping a lookout for the next Help Haiti auction but there has been no new information as of yet. We'll share the details as soon as we know more!

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Character of the Month Biography



The celebration of Back to Middle-earth Month seems an apt occasion upon which to publish the biography of Celebrimbor, the character whose foremost claim to fame is that of intellectual architect of the Rings of Power. Celebrimbor directly links the world of The Silmarillion to the story of the defeat of Sauron and the destruction of the One Ring in the Third Age.

Aficionados of Tolkien's work have a tendency to self-segregate into lovers of The Lord of the Rings who have little to no interest in The Silmarillion and those who are fascinated as well by the myriad of additional details and stories of Tolkien's created world. As Tolkien said in the “Annals of the Kings and Rulers” in the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, "Of these things the full tale, and much else concerning Elves and Men, is told in The Silmarillion" (1). Hungarian Tolkien scholar Gergely Nagy has noted that "The Lord of the Rings itself is essentially an extended version of The Silmarillion section 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age'" (2).

While Tolkien never lost hope of seeing his vast backstory in print, at one point hoping to publish The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings together as a two-volume set, his setbacks with successive editors on that front meant that he did not live long enough to provide his readers with his completed “director’s cut.” He could not resist the compulsion to continue adding, deleting, and adjusting his unpublished history of Middle-earth, leaving it a work-in-progress filled with contradictions at the time of his death. Tolkien described the condition of his broader history of Arda in a 1965 letter, “As for the 'Silmarillion' and its appendages; that is written, but it is in a confused state owing to alteration and enlargement at different dates (including 'writing back' to confirm the links between it and The L. of the Rings)” (3).

Such textual contradictions and revisions are rampant in the story of Celebrimbor. He is a good example of a character whose inclusion in The Lord of the Rings required a ‘writing back’ into Tolkien’s earlier drafts, which had been left in varying stages of completion. Accordingly to Christopher Tolkien, “Like Gil-galad, Celebrimbor was a figure first appearing in The Lord of the Rings whose origin my father changed again and again” (4).

The epic tale of the Rings of Power did not exist within Tolkien’s earliest versions of the chronicles of Arda which comprise The Silmarillion or in any of his other unfinished writings relating to the languages and peoples of Middle-earth until after the tale of Sauron’s ring to rule them all first appeared in an embryonic form in The Hobbit. Tolkien did not lightly introduce new elements into any of his storylines without attempting to bring them into consistency with his entire legendarium.

Yet even in the explanation of the origins of the name of Celebrimbor we encounter an inconsistency in Tolkien's re-telling of his history, although the following segment was written after he edited The Lord of the Rings to include him as the son of Curufin, fifth son of Fëanor.

Common Eldarin had a base KWAR 'press together, squeeze, wring'. A derivative was *kwara: Quenya quar, Telerin par, Sindarin paur. This may be translated 'fist', though its chief use was in reference to the tightly closed hand as in using an implement or a craft-tool rather than to the 'fist' as used in punching. Cf. the name Celebrin-baur > Celebrimbor. This was a Sindarized form of Telerin Telperimpar (Quenya Tyelpinquar). It was a frequent name among the Teleri, who in addition to navigation and ship-building were also renowned as silver-smiths. The famous Celebrimbor, heroic defender of Eregion in the Second Age war against Sauron, was a Teler, one of the three Teleri who accompanied Celeborn into exile. (5)

In relation to the discrepancy of once again describing Celebrimbor as a Teler, Christopher Tolkien opines,

When my father wrote this he ignored the addition to Appendix B in the Second Edition [of The Lord of the Rings], stating that Celebrimbor 'was descended from Fëanor'; no doubt he had forgotten that that theory had appeared in print, for had he remembered it he would undoubtedly have felt bound by it. (6)

There are few personal specifics detailed about Celebrimbor. We do not know what he looked like, although one might assume he resembled his grandfather Fëanor, since Curufin's resemblance to his father is emphasized strongly in the texts. We are given no information about his age at the time of the flight of the Noldor from Aman. We know nothing about his mother: no name, no history, not even whether or not she was a Noldo.

When Tolkien embraced the task of writing a sequel to The Hobbit, he settled upon the destruction of Sauron and his One Ring as its central plot point. From there Tolkien attempted to connect the story of the nature and origins of the Rings of Power with the events of the Second Age and prior.

Once Tolkien had decided that Celebrimbor, the maker of the Elven rings, was to be a scion of the House of Fëanor, the narrative relating to his life becomes lucidly straightforward from a storytelling perspective. Whatever misgivings or re-considerations Tolkien may have had about Celebrimbor’s origins and history, the version recounted in The Silmarillion contains an almost irrefutable logic and succeeds as a coherent storyline. It allows Tolkien to show Celebrimbor’s connection to the infamous Fëanorians and then to distance him from them so that his tale may be carried into the Second Age as yet another strand of color in the tapestry that depicts the tragic Doom of the Noldor. Celebrimbor's separation from the House of Fëanor is achieved through his renunciation of the actions of Celegorm and Curufin in Nargothrond.

It is in that account of the treachery of Celegorm and Curufin against Lúthien and Finrod Felagund in the underground fortress of Nargothrond and their ultimate expulsion that Celebrimbor is first mentioned as the grandson of Fëanor. "In that time Celebrimbor the son of Curufin repudiated the deeds of his father, and remained in Nargothrond; yet Huan followed still the horse of Celegorm his master" (6).

Most readers are introduced to Celebrimbor for the first time in The Fellowship of the Ring, where the story of his work and its results are described briefly in chapter, "The Council of Elrond."

Then all listened while Elrond in his clear voice spoke of Sauron and the Rings of Power, and their forging in the Second Age of the world long ago. A part of his tale was known to some there, but the full tale to none, and many eyes were turned to Elrond in fear and wonder as he told of the Elven-smiths of Eregion and their friendship with Moria, and their eagerness for knowledge, by which Sauron ensnared them. For in that time he was not yet evil to behold, and they received his aid and grew mighty in craft, whereas he learned all their secrets, and betrayed them, and forged secretly in the Mountain of Fire the One Ring to be their master. But Celebrimbor was aware of him, and hid the Three which he had made; and there was war, and the land was laid waste, and the gate of Moria was shut. (7)

This passage provides a link between the protracted fight of the exiled Noldor and their allies against Morgoth in the First Age to the sinister machinations, first in Númenor and then in Middle-earth, of his lieutenant Sauron in the Second Age. Who could be more suitable than a son of Curufin, the one of Fëanor’s seven sons sharing his father’s talent and appetite for invention, to be cast as foremost among the Noldorin craftsmen and smiths of Eregion? The inclusion of Celebrimbor into the account given at the Council of Elrond ties those previous elements of the history of the fight of the Eldar against Darkness to its resolution in the Third Age in The Lord of the Rings.

Celebrimbor is also named as the Lord of Eregion, the leader of the legendary Gwaith-i-Mirdain or People of the Jewelsmiths of Ost-in-Edhil, and a friend and collaborator with the most exceptional of the Dwarven artisans and miners.

Both Elves and Dwarves had great profit from this association: so that Eregion became far stronger, and Khazad-dûm far more beautiful, than either would have done alone. (8)

The magnificent West-gate of Moria build by the Dwarf Narvi in collaboration with Celebrimbor is graced with Tengwar crafted by Celebrimbor. Readers are familiar with the inscription on that famous gate which Gandalf reads in The Fellowship of the Ring:

"The words are in the elven-tongue of the West of Middle-earth in the Elder Days," answered Gandalf. "But they do not say anything of importance to us. They say only: 'The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter'. And underneath small and faint is written: 'I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.'" (9)

In speaking of construction of the published Silmarillion Christopher Tolkien asserts: "The book as published was however formed from completed narratives, and I could not take into account merely projected revisions" (10). Nowhere within the accounts of the deeds and heritage of Celebrimbor is a researcher drawn to sympathize with Christopher Tolkien than in the convoluted texts that trace the creation of the Elessar (the elfstone from which Aragorn derives his name when he re-claims the kingship of Gondor and Arnor for the line of Elendil through Isildur). At least one version of the origin of the Elessar asserts that Celebrimbor fashioned that legendary green stone and gifted it to Galadriel. The proposed differing versions are numerous and contradictory, introducing among other aspects the suggestion that Celebrimbor might have been a Noldo of Gondolin. Another posits that someone else--a master craftsman in Gondolin named Enerdhil, who is mentioned nowhere else in the texts--made that stone and returned to Aman taking it with him (11).

From the language that is used in the texts, one might assume that Celebrimbor did not himself actually physically forge all of the rings for the Kings of Men and the Dwarves. In The Silmarillion it says, “In those days the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made Rings of Power” (12). It appears far more likely that Celebrimbor did personally forge the three Elven rings: Nenya, Vilya, and Narya. In the most detailed account of the forging of the Rings of Power in Ost-in-Edhil, reference is made to them as the creation of Celebrimbor, rather than citing “the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil” or “[t]he Elves begin the forging of the Rings of power” (13) [Emphasis added.]

At various points in his ongoing re-drafts of his narrative, Tolkien names Celebrimbor as a Noldorin survivor of Gondolin and even a Teler. His decision to tie the heritage of Celebrimbor back to the House of Fëanor places Celebrimbor firmly within ranks of the Noldor, who among all the Eldar most strongly represented the desire to create and examine material reality. In notes to the essay Of Dwarves and Men, Christopher Tolkien quotes his father in order to most clearly show his presumed intent:

. . . against the passage in Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn just cited my father noted that it would be better to 'make him a descendant of Fëanor'. Thus in the Second Edition (1966) of The Lord of the Rings, at the end of the prefatory remarks to the Tale of Years of the Second Age, he added the sentence: 'Celebrimbor was lord of Eregion and the greatest of their craftsmen; he was descended from Fëanor.' (14)

It is easy to paint Celebrimbor as the prototypical Noldo, obsessed with science and technology, if he is the grandson of Fëanor (described “of all the Noldor [those among the Eldar in Aman trained by Aulë], then or after, the most subtle in mind and the most skilled in hand” [15]). Additionally, with his usual predilection for fine detail, Tolkien’s emphasis upon Celebrimbor as the foremost among the superior Noldorin craftsmen of Ost-in-Edhil as well as his close relationship to the Dwarves, "the Children of Aulë," further underlines both the connection to Aulë and the particular mindset of great interest in craft and invention.

From Ost-in-Edhil, the city of the Elves, the highroad ran to the west gate of Khazad-dûm, for a friendship arose between Dwarves and Elves, such as has never elsewhere been, to the enrichment of both those peoples. [Emphasis added.] In Eregion the craftsmen of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths, surpassed in cunning all that have ever wrought, save only Fëanor himself; and indeed greatest in skill among them was Celebrimbor, son of Curufin, who was estranged from his father and remained in Nargothrond when Celegorm and Curufin were driven forth, as is told in the Quenta Silmarillion. (16)

Aside from Maglor, whose whereabouts are unknown at the end of The Silmarillion and he is never mentioned again, Celebrimbor is the sole surviving descendant of the House of Fëanor in Middle-earth entering into the Second Age. Tolkien endows Celebrimbor with many of both the gifts and flaws of his remarkable grandfather. A distinction, however, is made between the character of Fëanor and that of his grandson.

Fëanor's only descendants were his seven sons, six of whom reached Beleriand. So far nothing has been said of their wives and children. It seems probable that Celebrinbaur (silverfisted, > Celebrimbor) was son of Curufin, but though inheriting his skills he was an Elf of wholly different temper (his mother had refused to take part in the rebellion of Fëanor and remained in Aman with the people of Finarphin). During their dwelling in Nargothrond as refugees he had grown to love Finrod and [missing word?] his wife, and was aghast at the behaviour of his father and would not go with him.

* * * *

But Curufin, dearest to his father and chief inheritor of his father's skills, was wedded, and had a son who came with him into exile, though his wife (unnamed) did not. (17)

More so than with any other character, except perhaps Fëanor himself, Tolkien singles out Celebrimbor's talent as creator and craftsman as the root of his ultimate destruction. Christine Chism in Jane Chance’s collection of essays, Tolkien the Medievalist, discusses the question of creation within Tolkien’s legendarium.

He [Sauron] seduces the Elvensmiths of Eregion by appealing to their creative ambition (Silm, 287-88). In the version in Unfinished Tales, Sauron finds an especially willing student in Celebrimbor, who “desired in his heart to rival the skill and fame of Fëanor,” his grandfather and the creator of the Silmarils (UT, 236). (18)

The story of Celebrimbor is a story of an otherwise honorable Elf seduced (or one might even say marred within in the context of Tolkien's legendarium) by his desire to create and his own intellectual curiosity, and to claim his work product as an essential part of his own self-worth on some profound level. One cannot say that Tolkien is opposed to the pursuit of scientific knowledge for its own sake, but must note that throughout his work there runs a fear and mistrust of aspects of the practical use of such knowledge, engendering the discussion of the question of the presence of anti-technological bias in Tolkien's work.

Dr. Joan Bushwell gives an interesting exposition of one scientist's consideration of the topic in her article, The Tolkienian War on Science on this site under, References, Essays:

Now science and engineering are amoral in and of themselves, but those who practice such crafts are only human, so are equally subject to good and bad influences, but Tolkien really, really did not like modernism and science/technology. Thus, there were plenty of morality lessons to be had among the crafty Elves. In his milieu, the most talented of sci-tech types among the Noldor were prideful and possessive, easily corrupted and therefore worthy of punishment. (19)

The proof of this corruptibility is that Sauron is able to so readily seduce the Elves of Ost-in-Edhil, and in particular Celebrimbor, by promising to share greater knowledge than they are able to acquire on their own. Chism also goes on in her previously cited article to note the danger to Tolkien's master craftsmen in the creation of great artifacts,

Tolkien’s mythologies theorize the work -- both process and product -- of art, as it calls forth, disciplines, and consumes the artist’s imaginative and manual labor. Art becomes powerful through this labor, and it repays the labor lavished upon it by radiating a dangerous desirability; Silmarils, Arkenstones, Dwarvish halls, Elven sanctuaries, and Rings rivet anyone who strays into the field of their beauty.10 Tolkien’s artists founder less often in failure than in the dazzlement of a long-fought-for success. [Emphasis added.]

10. “On Fairy-Stories” makes this link between fantasy-production and desire very clear: “Fairy-stories were plainly not primarily concerned with possibility but with desirability. If they awakened desire, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded” (“On Fairy-Stories,” in Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, 40). (20)

It appears in considerations of this nature that the Elven art referred to in Tolkien's texts might be translated as science and technology in modern parlance. There remains a certain ambiguity at best in Tolkien's work relating to the artisans and craftsmen among his characters. One, however, is able to read a grudging respect as well. Such respect is evident, for example, in his description of the relationship between Celebrimbor and the Dwarven craftsmen in Moria. Tolkien's language also soars when he describes Fëanor's achievements. Perhaps this contradiction within the writer himself makes the world he writes more compelling.

Tolkien himself attempts to introduce some of the ambiguity and complexity of these questions into a letter he drafted discussing the Elves of Ost-in-Edhil:

The particular branch of the High-Elves concerned, the Noldor or Loremasters, were always on the side of 'science and technology', as we should call it: they wanted to have the knowledge that Sauron genuinely had, and those of Eregion refused the warnings of Gilgalad and Elrond. The particular 'desire' of the Eregion Elves – an 'allegory' if you like of a love of machinery, and technical devices – is also symbolised by their special friendship with the Dwarves of Moria.

I should regard them as no more wicked or foolish (but in much the same peril) as Catholics engaged in certain kinds of physical research (e.g. those producing, if only as by-products, poisonous gases and explosives): things not necessarily evil, but which, things being as they are, and the nature and motives of the economic masters who provide all the means for their work being as they are, are pretty certain to serve evil ends. For which they will not necessarily be to blame, even if aware of them. (21)

Celebrimbor, however, is not to be spared a tragic and horrific demise, but before he succumbs, he is given the opportunity for redemption. While Sauron/Annatar participated in the making of the Rings of Dwarves and Men, Celebrimbor crafted the Three Elven Rings (Narya, the Ring of Fire; Nenya, the Ring of Water; and Vilya, the Ring of Air) without the participation of Sauron. Therefore, although they could be influenced by Sauron, they are not tainted from their inception by the intent of evil mastery over their holders by their creator. Celebrimbor also immediately recognized Sauron's intent and the extent of his own gullibility and Sauron's treachery, when Sauron first uses the One Ring.

But the Elves were not so lightly to be caught. As soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger they were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would be master of them, and of anything they wrought. Then in anger and fear they took off their rings. But he, finding that he was betrayed and that the Elves were not deceived, was filled with wrath; and he came against them with open war, demanding that all the rings should be delivered to him, since the Elven-smiths could not have attained to their making without his lore and counsel. But the Elves fled from him; and three of their rings they saved, and bore them away, and hid them. (22)

Celebrimbor never looks back. He distributes the Elven Rings among those who can protect them. He then fights against Sauron to defend the Elves of Eregion and guard the gates of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain.

Sauron most desired to possess them, for those who had them in their keeping could ward off the decays of time and postpone the weariness of the world. But Sauron could not discover them, for they were given into the hands of the Wise, who concealed them and never again used them openly while Sauron kept the Ruling Ring. Therefore the Three remained unsullied, for they were forged by Celebrimbor alone, and the hand of Sauron had never touched them; yet they also were subject to the One.

Celebrimbor is the last of the great princes of the Noldor who left Aman to come to Middle-earth who dies a heartbreakingly tragic death.

Celebrimbor, desperate, himself withstood Sauron on the steps of the great door of the Mírdain; but he was grappled and taken captive, and the House was ransacked.

* * * *

Concerning the Three Rings Sauron could learn nothing from Celebrimbor; and he had him put to death.

* * * *

In black anger he turned back to battle; and bearing as a banner Celebrimbor's body hung upon a pole, shot through with Orc-arrows, he turned upon the forces of Elrond. (23)

The tragic of end of Celebrimbor certainly fits within the framework of the Doom of the Noldor and the end of the House of Fëanor in Middle-earth. Yet Celebrimbor’s ultimate role in the events of the late Third Age may be considered as an exoneration of his collaboration with Sauron. That Celebrimbor and Annatar exchanged ideas and methodology is a logical assumption. Thus Sauron ultimately set himself up for his own demise by applying what he learned from Celebrimbor and the Gwaith-i-Mírdain: the concentration of much of his power into a material object that could be destroyed. Although he met a grisly end, Celebrimbor, the talented if doomed scion of the Fëanorions, indirectly brought about the downfall of the second Dark Lord.

Author's Note: I would like to thank Dawn Felagund for inspiration and patience. I also must acknowledge Pandemonium's ongoing discussions with me of many conceptions covered in this bio. I also want to thank Pandemonium for ghost-writing the last paragraph. She said exactly what I wanted to say, but more eloquently.

Works Cited

  1. The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Annals of The Kings and Rulers."
  2. Tolkien the Medievalist, ed. Jane Chance (London: Routledge, 2002), Gergely Nagy, "The Great Chain of Reading."
  3. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 276 To Dick Plotz.
  4. The Peoples of Middle-earth, Of Dwarves and Men.
  5. The Peoples of Middle-earth, Of Dwarves and Men, footnotes.
  6. Ibid.
  7. The Silmarillion, "Of Beren and Lúthien."
  8. The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond."
  9. Unfinished Tales, Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn.
  10. The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in The Dark."
  11. Unfinished Tales, Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn.
  12. Ibid.
  13. The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age.
  14. The Peoples of Middle-earth, The Tale of Years of the Second Age.
  15. The Peoples of Middle-earth, Of Dwarves and Men.
  16. The Silmarillion, "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor."
  17. The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age.
  18. The Peoples of Middle-earth, Of Dwarves and Men, footnotes.
  19. Tolkien the Medievalist, ed. Jane Chance (London: Routledge, 2002), Christine Chism, "Middle-Earth, the Middle Ages, and the Aryan Nation."
  20. "The Tolkienian War on Science," Dr. Joan Bushwell; for the original publication of the article with the accompanying commentary, please see SEED Magazine's Science Blogs:
  21. Tolkien the Medievalist, ed. Jane Chance (London: Routledge, 2002), Christine Chism, "Middle-Earth, the Middle Ages, and the Aryan Nation."
  22. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 153 To Peter Hastings.
  23. The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age.
  24. Unfinished Tales, Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn.

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Linguistic Foolery

Not Just the Son of That Guy:
Creating Effective Names for Original Characters

Darth Fingon

Here's a situation almost all fanfiction authors encounter at one point or another. You're right in the middle of your glorious epic novel about Thingol's life story, and then, without warning, an original character shows up. A messenger brings dire news to the Queen. And he needs a name. Unfortunately, because this is the Tolkien fandom, you can't just call him Byron or Jeff and be done with it. Nor can you make up some random fantasy name like Qhaer'Yaah off the top of your head.

(Well, okay, technically you can, but you'll be wrong and people will bitch about it.)

Coming up with a reasonable name for that original character may seem like a daunting task at first, but it doesn't need to be. Here are a few tips that can help out with the process.

1) Keep it simple.

Take a look at some of the names Tolkien created. Trust me, they just leap off the page with originality. Haldir = tall man. Arwen = noble maiden. Glorfindel = golden hair. Celeborn = silver tree. Thingol = grey cloak. Aredhel = noble Elf. All of these names follow the very simple pattern of adjective-noun, and not one of them is particularly outlandish in its description. Instead of trying to translate a specific phrase like 'graceful princess of the dancing light' into Sindarin, stick to very brief, generic meanings: green jewel, faithful hand, fair song, glorious star.

2) Don't cop out and call everyone Noun-ion and Adjective-wen.

Keeping that 'simple' rule in mind, it's also important not to oversimplify. A few characters with names ending in -ion, -iel, and -wen are fine, but when you have a series of OCs named Laerion, Morion, Brithion, Gilion, and Nenion, it gets a little silly. Try to set the limit at one character with each common suffix, and come up with something a little different for everyone else. While Tolkien did provide several -iels and -wens, male names ending in -ion are relatively uncommon.

3) Don't tailor the name too much to the character.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but creating a name that's too appropriate to your character can do more harm than good and tip you over into the realm of cliché. A warrior does not need to be named after swords or battle any more than a musician needs to be named after flutes or songs. Resist the temptation to give all of your OCs occupation-specific names. The generic meanings listed in point one above would be perfectly fine across the board. 'Green jewel' works just as well for the captain of the guard as it does for the King's minstrel.

4) Sound is more important than meaning.

It's nice to be able to give your character the meaning you want, but sometimes it doesn't work. If the name sounds weird, or is too long or hard to pronounce, don't use it, no matter how perfect the meaning is. Having a name that looks good on your computer screen and sounds good when you say it in your head is vastly more important than what it means. To give an example, say you were set on an OC with a name that means 'pure voice'. It's a great meaning and perfect for your character. Unfortunately, it translates into Sindarin as Puiglam. I don't think you need me to point out how terrible this name is. Don't stubbornly go ahead with it. Find something that sounds better. Call him 'green jewel' instead: Calemir is way nicer.

5) It is possible to cheat at Sindarin.

For many people, the worst part of making up original character names is worrying about whether or not they're linguistically correct. Especially when it comes to Sindarin, a language so confusing that it cannot be reasonably summarised in this paragraph. But, luckily, there are ways to cheat at Sindarin and make yourself a correct name even if you know nothing about its rules and pitfalls.

The easiest way out: pair a word ending in a consonant with a word beginning with that same consonant. The two matching consonants will overlap. Aran + nen = Aranen. Hûr + ras = Húras**. Lach + hiril = Lachiril. The only ones to watch out for is the letter S, which will double: falas + sîr = Falassir*. Letters L, M, and N can also double, but S is the only one that must.

Also very easy: pair a word ending in a vowel with a word beginning with F, L, N, R or TH. Adui + loth = Aduiloth. Minai + thôr = Minaithor*. Lû + roval = Lúroval**.

Other safe combinations: any word ending B, CH, D, DH, G, R, or TH + vowel. Ereb + ael = Erebael. Ardh + aran = Ardharan. Mîr + ethuil = Mírethuil**.

In all scenarios, avoid words containing the diphthong AU (as this frequently becomes O or Ó depending on its position within a compound) and second words ending in consonant clusters (MP, ND, etc., as these frequently simplify into a single letter at the ends of compounds).

*Circumflex accents, in final syllables, are always dropped.
** In non-final syllables, circumflex accents become acute, unless they stand before a cluster of two or more consonants. In that case, the accent would be dropped altogether.

6) Keep a list of names ready to use.

If you're on a roll of creating names that look and sound good, don't stop. Keep a list of generic names on hand so you're ready for the next throwaway OC. You don't want to be spending half an hour coming up with the perfect name whenever a guard appears or somebody's sister is mentioned. A good list will save you time when it comes to naming those minor players and filling in family trees.

7) Do not, under any circumstances, just make up some crap and hope nobody notices.

Because somebody will notice.

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Gothmog and Draugluin


“Gothmog and Draugluin” follows the antics of two Tolkienian icons who were not all about smiting and devouring but had fun, too. Little Gothmog lives in Thangorodrim with his mom (Ulbandi Fluithuin) and dad (Melkor, Black Foe of the World). Melkor’s right-hand man and Gothmog’s babysitter -- Professor Thû ("I'm not a babysitter. I'm an observer!") -- makes appearances, too.

Gothmog and Draugluin also share this space with “Stinky Pete” Mêshûgganâscar, Maia of Mandos, and his pals.

Pandemonium_213 issues the standard disclaimer that Gothmog, Draugluin, Melkor, Ulbandi, Professor Thû, all the Elf dudes, Stinky Pete and his Maiarin pals, their Valarin bosses and whoever else shows up are the property of the Tolkien estate, and that this irreverent comic strip is drawn (badly) for fun and games but not for profit.

Gothmog and Draugluin by Pandemonium_213

Click to view full-sized.

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Current Challenge

To Be Free

Freedom means many things to different people. It has been the cause of wars and underlies dreams of peace. Many of the greatest works of literature discuss freedom in one way or another.

J.R.R. Tolkien's books are no exception. Freedom is a theme throughout his works and is often a primary motive for his characters. For this challenge, we ask you to show a character working to achieve freedom. While the actions of major characters like Fëanor and Lúthien might come first to mind, your story need not focus on epic quests for liberty but may also focus on small, everyday attempts to win freedom.

Challenges Revisited: Let the Games Begin!

As the world bids farewell to another Olympic games and the Tolkien fandom greets another Back to Middle-earth Month, this year a quest game, we turn our minds to what our characters do for fun.

As fall begins, many of us return to school grind, filling our days with classes, homework, and tedium. So in the midst of that return to seriousness, let's take a moment for some fun and play games! Write about a game your favorite characters used to play as children, or the contests that may have been held at festivals. Or if you're feeling at little mischeivous, write about the games your favorite characters might have invented to enliven a good bottle of spirits. It doesn't matter how simple or complex, as long as the games begin! As always, use any style (drabble, poem, novel, etc)!

Quote of the Month

"The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, he's going to keep digging, he's going to keep trying to do right and make up for what's gone before, just because that's who he is."
Joss Whedon

Want more challenges? Check out our complete challenge listing for more than three years' worth of challenges to inspire your writing!

Have an idea for a challenge? Some of our most popular challenges have been created by you, the members of SWG! If you have a plotbunny gnawing at your ankle, a favorite quote, or a favorite character that you think might inspire others as well, please send an email to and we'll try to include your challenge in our next newsletter!

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Around the World and Web

LotR Genfic Community: Mad as a March Hare

The March Challenge will have the theme "Mad as a March Hare". Stories should include a character who seems "mad" or is acting strangely or out-of-character-- for a reason! Your element will be a type of weather, which you will include in the story. The March challenge stories will be due the weekend of Friday,March 12, and will be revealed on Monday,March 15. Please visit this post to request your elements or learn more about this challenge.

Of Elves and Men Writer's Circle

The first writing prompt has been posted and the writer's circle is started. Stories can be posted throughout the month of March. See this post for more information on how to participate.

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